Monday, January 29, 2018


Continuing with the whale theme, here is a Narwhal. Anatomically, it's whale-shaped in that its tail end is narrower and more streamlined than its head end, but that head is less blocky and its profile as a whole less oblong than the Sperm Whale's

I used the Menagerie body templates as is but modified the base (which is now the face), curving it out with darts 

to make the Narwhal's more rounded head.

Here are some side-by-side shots of the two whales,

so you can see the difference the darts made. It's not as evident from the top,

but clearly so from the side.

That modification aside, the other features were simple add-ons:

tail, fins and tusk.

The narwhal's tail is differently shaped than the sperm whale's,

 as are its pectoral fins.

Real-life narwhals are dark on the dorsal half of their bodies and pale on the belly half, so I gave ours a white belly and made the undersides of their pectoral fines white to match. 

Finally, here's the Narwhal's iconic overgrown tooth that looks like a horn but actually isn't. I've recently learned that rather than being a lance for killing, say, pirates, that tooth is really a sensory organ used for finding food and mates, as well as to stun fish to make them easier to capture. Isn't nature marvelous? 

So, that tusk. It's a skinny fleece cone, stuffed tight and wound around with pearl cotton or embroidery floss, then hand stitched to the center of the face.

Here are the two whales together.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Some aquatic critters next!

One of the many things I enjoy about working with my Menagerie pattern is discovering new ways to make the base template approximate real animal anatomy. Especially by visualizing the base template shape from completely different angles.

Case in point: the torpedo-shaped Shark 

(and the more generic Fish), 

whose templates were devised by doubling the original template end-to-end so that the pointy bits became the Shark head and tail.

Then Emily's friend wanted a Blobfish for her birthday, 

and we turned the template 180 degrees and used the pointy bit for the tail, and the flat base for the face. 

It opened my eyes to new possibilities for other animals that were similarly shaped.

Whales, for instance.

Here is a Sperm Whale. The kids have named him William.

Of all the whale species, this one looks least like a torpedo,

and has the blockiest head 

and so was the perfect candidate for the base template to be used without alteration.

Here are the details:

What was the original base has now become the forehead of the whale's blocky head.

In the center back seam are two inserts:

a spout of water from the blowhole

and the dorsal ridges (or humps) close to the tail.

The tail fin is attached along what was the original mouth seam of the upright Menagerie animals, but is now the horizontal seam that goes around the whale's body.

Here are the pectoral fins, which in this prototype whale are each inserted into a shallow dart along the side of the body. In future versions, however, the pectoral fins will be situated lower, and inserted directly into the horizontal seam,

so they'll sit below the eye, which would make more anatomical sense. Sometimes this anatomical mix-up happens when designing prototypes, because we're adding features out of sequence. With this whale, for instance, I attached the fins first, intending to situate the eyes about halfway down the side of the body in the last stage of construction. But when the whale was finished and stuffed and I'd positioned the eyes where I thought they should be, the resulting face looked weird so I moved the eyes to where they are in the photo, which happened to be under the fins! Bizarre. All will be rectified in the next version, though!

Here's the mouth of the whale.

The belly view shows how the pink mouth pieces were attached. I split the belly piece into two sections along a new seam so I could insert seam allowances around the edges of the mouth opening 

to join to the pink mouth pieces. 

Overall, a very quick sew, and I love how blocky-headed the outcome is!

Here's a final shot of William goofing off with one of the other sea creatures from Season 1. No animals were actually harmed in the shooting of these photos, incidentally. Squid and sperm whales may be natural enemies in real life but these guys here don't know that - they just think it's fun to give each other chokeholds. Daft!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


This was for Emily, who adores hedgehogs.

Some adapting of the base template was necessary to shape the spiny/furry back so that it curved over the head. I tweaked both the body and head templates.

The seam that connects the head to the body had to be brought forward, and the vertical seam running down the face had to be made concave (instead of convex in the original) to make that upturned nose.

It was actually a really simple adaptation, and a much easier sew than it sounds.

Now, this being my prototype hedgehog, I wasn't very particular with nose sizes, but future hedgehogs will get nose jobs to slightly reduce that schnozzle.

I realize that a large part of what make this hedgehog hedgehoggy is the fur fabric of the body. Bald fleece, for instance, wouldn't produce anywhere near the texture needed for quills. 

So I'd suggest that if you were making this hedgehog, the fur is highly recommended. It doesn't have to be spiky, though -if I could've found a grey-mottled-brown straight fur, especially if it had a distinct nap (just like quills!) I'd have picked that, too. I ended up using this faux fur that was slightly curly, which unfortunately didn't come in grey, only dark brown.

Some ridiculously squeal-y photos now: family shots of the mama with her teeny baby, which I'd made earlier here.